The Opus 500 is also known as the Exposition Organ, because it was played at the worlds fair in San Francisco in 1915. It was the seventh-largest organ in the world. What do you do with such a large, valuable, and heavy antique? To those who heard it in its heyday, it was a wondrous thing to behold.
Back then, thousands of people a day attending the Panama-Pacific International Exposition applauded its soaring crescendos and rib-rattling swells. Today, the organ’s 7,500 pipes and countless other parts sit silent and in pieces, packed into boxes and crates spread across 3,600 square feet of concrete, basement floor—in some places, the crates are stacked 12 feet high. To prepare a new site for the instrument, move it, put the thing back together again, and then tune it could cost upwards of $2 million, assuming, of course, you could find a home for the finished instrument. So far, no one has.
That may be about to change. Although details are still under wraps, members of a group known as the Friends of the Exposition Organ have told us that after years of looking, they may have finally found a new home for Opus 500.
Collectors Weekly gives us the story of the organ, not only in its finest hours, but also what happened to the Opus 500 after the fair. It involves earthquakes, politics, architecture, and a small group of people who want to restore it to its former glory. Included is a video of the organ being played.